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The glitch that stole Berkeley’s elections

By Judith Scherr, John Geluardi and Juliet Leyba
Wednesday November 08, 2000

There were only partial election results Tuesday night, but some folks partied anyway. 

Early in the evening, people gathered around TV sets and cheer abounded at the twin campaigns: Berkeley Citizens Action folk gathered at the Old Outback Store on Sacramento Street near Dwight Way and Berkeley Democratic Club aficionados came together at the Sante Fe Bar and Grill on University Avenue. 

The gathering at the Sante Fe Bar fizzled before midnight with the news that the Berkeley voter machines had broken down and results would not be forthcoming. Still, the BCA crowd continued to party across town. 

At midnight, the Berkeley votes were in transport between the city clerk’s office and the county registrar’s office. By car. Not cyberspace, as was supposed to happen. 

The height of the evening at the Berkeley Citizens Action event was when Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, introduced candidate Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek. Despite Gore’s impending loss, Lee took the high road, saying that the election had brought out “a lot of young people. There was more activism, more involvement,” she said.  

Shirek was winning by a huge margin – but it was only the absentee votes and one precinct that came in before the technological glitch was confirmed. At that point, Shirek had 543 votes or 71.6 percent of the vote, James Peterson had 151 or 20 percent of the vote and Marcella Crump-Williams had 63 votes or 8.3 percent of the vote. That is with 12 more precincts that remain to be counted. By 12:45 a.m., Shirek’s lead had move ahead to 73.5 percent – still, with only four precincts counted. 

Councilmember Margaret Breland’s supporters had been up and working since 5 a.m. Jane Stillwater was among them.  

“Margaret Breland is the nicest person in the world. If she wins, we can’t go wrong.” At 12:45 a.m., with only two precincts reporting, Breland had a strong lead at 58.6 percent and Hicks followed at 25.5 percent – with only 8 precincts reporting. 

Over at the Santa Fe Bar and Grill on University Avenue, Mayor Shirley Dean partied with incumbent Betty Olds, candidate Betty Hicks, Miriam Hawley and school board candidate Sherri Morton. Morton was leading challenger John Selawsky by a sliver  

and said “the slim lead  

feels good.”  

Dean addressed the question of the rent board. Property owner representative Peggy Schioler trailed the four pro-rent control candidates. 

“No matter what happens, the (rent board) will be doing what they have been doing – nothing and there’s not going to be any change.” As the Daily Planet goes to press, there’s only one race that can be called: the race for the best party goes to Berkeley Citizen’s Action, still going strong as the hour neared 1 a.m. The Santa Fe Group had gone home by 12.